Slashdot Deals: Deal of the Day - 6 month subscription of Pandora One at 46% off. ×

Green Light Or No, Nest Cam Never Stops Watching ( 131

chicksdaddy writes: How do you know when the Nest Cam monitoring your house is "on" or "off"? It's simple: just look at the little power indicator light on the front of the device — and totally disregard what it is telling you. The truth is: the Nest Cam is never "off" despite an effort by Nest and its parent Google to make it appear otherwise. That, according to an analysis of the Nest Cam by the firm ABI Research, which found that turning the Nest Cam "off" using the associated mobile application only turns off the LED power indicator light on the front of the device. Under the hood, the camera continues to operate and, according to ABI researcher Jim Mielke, to monitor its surroundings: noting movement, sound and other activity when users are led to believe it has powered down.

Mielke reached that conclusion after analyzing Nest Cam's power consumption. Typically a shutdown or standby mode would reduce current by as much as 10 to 100 times, Mielke said. But the Google Nest Cam's power consumption was almost identical in "shutdown" mode and when fully operational, dropping from 370 milliamps (mA) to around 340mA. The slight reduction in power consumption for the Nest Cam when it was turned "off" correlates with the disabling of the LED power light, given that LEDs typically draw 10-20mA.

In a statement to The Security Ledger, Nest Labs spokesperson Zoz Cuccias acknowledged that the Nest Cam does not fully power down when the camera is turned off from the user interface (UI). "When Nest Cam is turned off from the user interface (UI), it does not fully power down, as we expect the camera to be turned on again at any point in time," Cuccias wrote in an e-mail. "With that said, when Nest Cam is turned off, it completely stops transmitting video to the cloud, meaning it no longer observes its surroundings." The privacy and security implications are serious. "This means that even when a consumer thinks that he or she is successfully turning off this camera, the device is still running, which could potentially unleash a tidal wave of privacy concerns," Mielke wrote.


Stack Overflow and the Zeitgeist of Computer Programming ( 166

An anonymous reader writes: Stack Overflow remains one of the most widely-used resources in the developer community. Around 400,000 questions are posted there every month. The Priceonomics blog is using statistical analysis to ask, "What does the nature of these questions tell us about the state of programming?" They see tremendous growth in questions about Android Studio, as well as more generic growth in work relating to data analysis and cloud services. Topics on a significant decline include Silverlight, Joomla, Clojure, and Flash (not to mention emacs, for some reason). The article also takes a brief look at the site's megausers, who receive a lot of credit for keeping the signal-to-noise ratio as high as it is, while also taking flack for how the Stack Overflow culture has progressed. "Others are worried about how Stack Overflow has impacted programming fundamentals. Some critics believe that rather than truly struggling with a problem, developers can now just ask Stack Overflow users to solve it for them. The questioner may receive and use an answer with code they do not truly understand; they just know it fixes their problem. This can lead to issues in the long run when adjustments are needed."

New IBM Tech Lets Apps Authenticate You Without Personal Data ( 27

itwbennett writes: IBM's Identity Mixer allows developers to build apps that can authenticate users' identities without collecting personal data. Specifically, Identity Mixer authenticates users by asking them to provide a public key. Each user has a single secret key, and it corresponds with multiple public keys, or identities. IBM announced on Friday that Identity Mixer is now available to developers on its Bluemix cloud platform.

Nearly 35,000 Comment On New Federal STEM OPT Extension Rule ( 55

theodp writes: Computerworld reports that the comments are in on the Department of Homeland Security's new proposed rule to extend OPT for international STEM students from 29 months to at least 36 months. The majority of the comments received by DHS support extending the program, CW notes, which is probably not surprising. Rather than choosing to "avoid the appearance of improper influence" by declining to respond to a "We the People" petition protesting a pending U.S. Federal judge's ruling that threatens to eliminate OPT STEM extensions altogether in February, the White House informed the 100k petition signers that they had the President's support, and pointed to the comment site for the proposed DHS OPT STEM rule workaround. Like the "We the People" petitioners, it's unclear whether the DHS commenters might represent corporate, university, and/or student interests, although a word cloud of the top 100 names of commenters (which accounted for 17,000+ comments) hints that international students are well-represented. By the way, in rejecting the 'emergency changes' that were enacted by DHS in 2008 to extend OPT for STEM students without public comment, Judge Ellen Huvelle said, "the 17-month duration of the STEM extension appears to have been adopted directly from the unanimous suggestions by Microsoft and similar industry groups."

Manhattan DA Pressures Google and Apple To Kill Zero Knowledge Encryption ( 291

An anonymous reader writes: In a speech to the 6th Annual Financial Crimes and Cybersecurity Symposium, New York County District Attorney for Manhattan Cyrus Vance Jr. has appealed to the tech community — specifically citing Google and Apple — to "do the right thing" and end zero-knowledge encryption in mobile operating systems. Vance Jr. praised FBI director James Comey for his 'outspoken' and 'fearless' advocacy against zero knowledge encryption, and uses the recent attacks on Paris as further justification for returning encryption keys to the cloud, so that communications providers can once again comply with court orders.
The Courts

Taxi Owners Sue NYC Over Uber, While Court Overrules Class-Action Appeal ( 210

An anonymous reader writes: Taxi owners in New York have filed a lawsuit against cab-hailing app giant Uber, citing damaged revenues and a hefty fall in value of NYC's 'medallion' business. The case against the city and its Taxi and Limousine Commission claims that the regulators have unfairly permitted Uber to steal away business from the regulated cab industry. Getting away without regulation has enabled Uber drivers to compete directly, and drown out official taxi companies. A further lawsuit case hovering over Uber this week, is its request to immediately appeal an order approving class certification filed by its own drivers. The appeal was denied by a U.S. court yesterday.
The Courts

Facebook Can Block Content Without Explanation, Says US Court ( 147

An anonymous reader writes: A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook can block any content posted to its site without explanation, after a Sikh group legally challenged the company for taking its page offline. U.S. Northern District of California Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the U.S. based rights group's encouragement of religious discrimination is illegal under the Communications Decency Act, which protects 'interactive computer services' providers by preventing courts from treating them as the publishers of the speech created by their users.

Microsoft Open-Sources Visual Studio Code ( 158

An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft today unleashed a torrent of news at its Connect(); 2015 developer event in New York City. The company open-sourced code editing software Visual Studio Code, launched a free Visual Studio Dev Essentials program, pushed out .NET Core 5 and ASP.NET 5 release candidates, unveiled Visual Studio cloud subscriptions, debuted the Visual Studio Marketplace, and a lot more. The source for Visual Studio Code is available at GitHub under the MIT license. They've also released an extension (preview) for Visual Studio that facilitates code debugging on Linux.

Why Free Services From Telecoms Can Be a Problem On the Internet 88 writes: T-Mobile said last week that it would let customers watch as many movies as they wanted on services like Netflix and HBO as well as all other kinds of video, without having it count against their monthly data plans. But the NYT editorializes that there are real concerns about whether such promotions could give telecommunications companies the ability to influence what services people use on the Internet, benefiting some businesses and hurting others. Earlier this year, the FCC adopted net neutrality rules to make sure that companies like T-Mobile, Verizon and Comcast did not seek to push users toward some types of Internet services or content — like video — and not others. The rules, which telecom companies are trying to overturn in court, forbid phone and cable companies to accept money from Internet businesses like Amazon to deliver their videos to customers ahead of data from other companies. The rules, however, do not explicitly prevent telecom companies from coming up with "zero rating" plans like the one T-Mobile announced that use them treat, or rate, some content as free.

"Everybody likes free stuff, but the problem with such plans is that they allow phone and cable companies to steer their users to certain types of content. As a result, customers are less likely to visit websites that are not part of the free package." T-Mobile has said that its zero-rating plan, called Binge On, is good for consumers and for Internet businesses because it does not charge companies to be part of its free service. "Binge On is certainly better than plans in which websites pay telecom companies to be included," concludes The Times. "But it is not yet clear whether these free plans will inappropriately distort how consumers use the Internet."
Wireless Networking

An Algorithm To Facilitate Uber-Style Dynamic Phone Tariffs ( 75

An anonymous reader writes: A new paper proposes an algorithm to help network providers furnish 'surge' pricing for mobile data and other network communications, citing a 50% shortfall between demand and capacity over the next five years as an indicator that consumers may have to be shepherded out of the congested times and areas in order for normal service to continue to be maintained. Just don't tell any of the people in charge of airport wireless networks.

Bluetooth 2016 Roadmap Brings Fourfold Range Increase and Mesh Networking ( 29

An anonymous reader writes: The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced its roadmap for Bluetooth Smart in 2016, promising a fourfold range increase in the low-energy, IoT-oriented version of the protocol, along with dedicated mesh networking, a 100% increase in speed and no extra consumption of energy. The last set of upgrades to the protocol offered direct access to the internet and security enhancements. Since Bluetooth must currently contend with attacks on everything from cars to toilets, the increased range means that developers may not be able to rely on 'fleeting contact' as a security feature quite as much.

Comet Catalina To Pass By Earth For the Final Time 54

StartsWithABang writes: Originating from the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, comets are generally thought of as periodic objects, with their initial trajectories having been perturbed by either Neptune, another distant object or a passing star or rogue planet. But most comets aren't periodic; they're transient instead, where a trip into the inner Solar System gives them additional gravitational perturbations, causing them to either fly into the Sun or gain enough kinetic energy to escape entirely. This latter fate is the case for Comet Catalina, which reaches perihelion on November 15th and then heads out of the Solar System after putting on one final show for observers on Earth.

Webmail Services Struggling Against DDoS Attacks ( 90

An anonymous reader writes: A few days ago, privacy-oriented webmail service ProtonMail was hit by a massive DDoS attack, which was accompanied by extortion. It turns out they're not the only ones. FastMail has warned that similar attacks could lead to service disruptions this week. They have refused extortion demands, and have been hit with a couple brief attacks already. This follows attacks over the last week on Runbox, Zoho, and Hushmail. Each service has been working with data centers and network providers to mitigate the attacks as well as possible, but they're still struggling with intermittent service disruptions.

Microsoft Putting Servers In Germany To Keep User Data Away From US Intelligence ( 173

An anonymous reader writes: Ever since the Snowden leaks, people and businesses in foreign countries have been wary about hosting sensitive data on U.S. soil for fear intelligence agencies would be able to comb through it at their leisure. Microsoft has announced a plan to combat those worries, saying they will host infrastructure for Azure, Office 365, and Dynamics CRM at data centers in Germany. In addition, the data centers themselves will not be run by Microsoft, but by a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, which eliminates more legal avenues for U.S. agencies to access the data stored there. "The two data centers will be based in Magdeburg and Frankfurt am Main, with Microsoft stressing this 'data trustee' model means it will not have any access to customer data without the consent of the trustee, and that it cannot therefore be compelled — 'even by a third party' — to hand over customer data."

Baidu Data Research Reveals China's Ghost Cities ( 109

An anonymous reader writes: Chinese web services giant, Baidu, has embarked on a new study in which it uses location information from users' mobile devices, as well as mapping and building data, to identify areas with high volumes of construction with relatively low population densities — known as 'ghost cities.' The researchers, in the published findings Ghost Cities: Analysis Based on Positioning Data in China, were able to discount areas which experienced high levels of tourism which skew the figures in peak seasons. The Baidu Big Data team discovered 50 ghost cities, although only 20 of these were revealed in the report to avoid potential harm to the real estate market in these areas.

Interviews: Ask Mathematician Neil Sloane a Question 189

Considered by many to be one of the most influential mathematicians alive today, Neil Sloane has made major contributions to the fields of sphere packing, combinatorics, and error-correcting codes. He is probably best known for being the creator and curator of the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (OEIS), known simply as “Sloane” by its many users. The repository is over 50 years old and contains over 260,000 sequences.

Neil recently turned 76 but his passion for mathematics remains as strong as ever. Talking about a recent project, he writes: “Back in September I was looking at an old sequence in the OEIS. The sequence starts 1, 12, 123, 1234, 12345, ..., 123456789, 12345678910, 1234567891011, ... The n-th term: just write all the decimal numbers from 1 to n in a row and think of this as a big number. The entry for the sequence had a comment that it is expected that there are infinitely many terms which are primes, but that no prime was known, even though Dana Jaconsen had checked the first 64,000 terms. So I asked various friends and correspondents about this, and people extended the search somewhat. In fact Ernst Mayer has set up a cloud-source project to look for primes in the sequence, and the sequence has now been checked to nearly n = 270,000 without finding a prime. But I am hopeful that a prime will appear before we get to n = 10^6. When a prime is found, as it surely will be, it probably won't be the largest prime known, but it will be close to the record (which is held by the latest Mersenne prime). We may make it into the top ten. It will certainly be the largest known prime which is easy to write down! (Explicitly, I mean. You may know that 2^32582657-1 is prime, but you won't be able to write down the decimal expansion without using a computer).”

Neil has agreed to take some time away from his favorite sequences and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
The Internet

No Such Thing As 'Unlimited' Data ( 622

An anonymous reader writes: According to an article at Wired, the era of 'unlimited' data services is coming to an end. Carriers don't give them out anymore unless they're hobbled, and they're even increasing the prices of grandfathered plans. Comcast's data caps are spreading, and Time Warner has been testing them for years as well. It's not even just about internet access — Microsoft recently decided to eliminate its unlimited cloud storage plan. The big question now is: were these companies cynical, or just naive? We have no way of evaluating their claims that a small number of users who abused the system caused it to be unprofitable for them. (A recent leaked memo from Comcast suggests it's about extracting more money, rather than network congestion.) But it's certainly true that limited plans make costs and revenue much easier to predict. Another question: were we, as consumers, naive in expecting these plans to last? As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Unlimited data plans clearly won't work too well if everybody uses huge amounts. So did we let ourselves get suckered by clever marketing?
United States

Rural Mississippi: The Land That the Internet Era Forgot ( 154

New submitter lesedeuezghe writes with this Wired story by W. Ralph Eubanks about the efforts of the Extension Service to broaden its scope from mostly agricultural information to bringing broadband to rural communities. "In sleepy public libraries, at Rotary breakfasts, and in town halls, he [Assistant Extension Professor Roberto Gallardo] gives PowerPoint presentations that seem calculated to fill rural audiences with healthy awe for the technological sublime. Rather than go easy, he starts with a rapid-fire primer on heady concepts like the Internet of Things, the mobile revolution, cloud computing, digital disruption, and the perpetual increase of processing power. ('It’s exponential, folks. It’s just growing and growing.') The upshot: If you don’t at least try to think digitally, the digital economy will disrupt you. It will drain your town of young people and leave your business in the dust. Then he switches gears and tries to stiffen their spines with confidence. Start a website, he’ll say. Get on social media. See if the place where you live can finally get a high-speed broadband connection—a baseline point of entry into modern economic and civic life."
Input Devices

Scan a Book In Five Minutes With a $199 Scanner? ( 221

New submitter David Rothman writes: Scan a 300-page book in just five minutes or so? For a mere $199 and shipping — the current price on Indiegogo — a Chinese company says you can buy a device to do just that. And a related video is most convincing. The Czur scanner from CzurTek uses a speedy 32-bit MIPS CPU and fast software for scanning and correction. It comes with a foot pedal and even offers WiFi support. Create a book cloud for your DIY digital library? Imagine the possibilities for Project Gutenberg-style efforts, schools, libraries and the print-challenged as well as for booklovers eager to digitize their paper libraries for convenient reading on cellphones, e-readers and tablets. Even at the $400 expected retail price, this could be quite a bargain if the claims are true. I myself have ordered one at the $199 price.

Y Combinator, the X Factor of Tech ( 54

universe520 writes: Since 2005 YC has taken on batches of promising founders, and this month will celebrate the funding of its 1,000th startup. Though about half of its startups have failed, which is typical of early-stage investing, it has had a head-turning record of success. In addition to Airbnb, YC has had a hand in Dropbox, a cloud-storage firm, and Stripe, a payments company. Eight of its firms have become what Valley folk call 'unicorns', valued at $1 billion or more. Combined, the companies it has invested in are worth around $65 billion (based on their most recent funding round), although YC's share is only a small fraction of that total—perhaps $1 billion-$2 billion. It is because of this record that YC has become a juggernaut in Silicon Valley.